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Medieval illustration of a battle during the Second Crusade
14th-century miniature from William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer of a battle during the Second Crusade, National Library of France, Department of Manuscripts, French 22495 fol. 154V

The crusades were a series of religious wars in western Asia and Europe initiated, supported and sometimes directed by the Roman Catholic Church between the 11th and the 17th century. The crusades differed from other religious conflicts in that they took the form of a penitential exercise for the participants with forgiveness for all confessed sin. The exact definition of the term is debatable, with some historians restricting its use to armed Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem, others expanding it to all Catholic military campaigns with a promise of spiritual benefits, all Catholic "holy wars" or mentioning religious fervour as the main characteristic of genuine crusades. The best-known crusades are successive campaigns fought against the Muslim powers of the eastern Mediterranean for the Holy Land from 1096 to 1271. Other crusades were fought from the 12th century for a variety of reasons including the suppression of paganism and heresy, the resolution of conflict among rival Catholic groups, or against the Iberian Moors and the Ottoman Empire.

Pope Urban II preached for the First Crusade in 1095, at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I against the Seljuk Turks and called for an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The enthusiastic response to Urban's preaching across all social strata in western Europe established a precedent for further expeditions. Volunteers became crusaders by taking a public vow. Individuals "took the cross" for various reasons: some were hoping for a mass ascension into Heaven at Jerusalem, others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honour, or to seek economic and political gain. The first war of the cross established four Crusader states: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. Edessa was the first to fall, but new crusades secured the survival of the remaining Crusader states for almost two centuries. The last of the Crusader cities fell in 1291. The Crusader control of Cyprus, established during the Third Crusade, was more persistent, lasting until 1571.

The Reconquista, the Iberian Christians' fight against the Iberian Muslims, was first proclaimed a crusade in 1123 and ended with the fall of Emirate of Granada in 1492. The Northern Crusades were fought against the pagan tribes of north-eastern Europe from 1147. They brought most tribes under German, Danish or Swedish control before the union of Poland and Lithuania halted the Teutonic Knights' expansion in the 15th century. Pope Innocent III preached for the first crusade against a Catholic ruler for his own benefit in 1199, setting a precedent for the "political crusades" of the 13th and 14th centuries. Crusades against heretics began in 1208 in Languedoc, were fought in Savoy and Bohemia in the 15th century and against Protestants in the 16th century.The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-14th century prompted a Catholic response with further crusades, ending with the War of the Holy League in 1699. A Crusader legacy remained in the Knights Hospitaller ruling Malta until 1798.


The term crusade used in modern historiography at first referred to military expeditions undertaken by the Christians of Europe in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries for the Holy Land. The conflicts to which the term has been applied has been extended to include other campaigns initiated, supported and sometimes directed by the Roman Catholic Church against pagans, heretics or for alleged religious ends.[1] The crusades differed from other Christian religious wars in that they were considered a penitential exercise earning the participants with forgiveness for all confessed sin and also focussed on the recovery of the most respected Christian shrines.[2] The usage of crusade can create a misleading impression of coherence, particularly regarding the early crusades.[3]

At the time of the First Crusade the terms used for the campaign were iter, "journey", and peregrinatio, "pilgrimage". The terminology of crusading remained largely indistinguishable from that of Christian pilgrimage during the 12th century. It was not until the end of the century that a more specific language of crusading was adopted in the form of crucesignatus—"one signed by the cross"—for a crusader. This later led to the French croisade—the way of the cross.[4] By the mid 13th century the cross became the major terminology of the crusades with crux transmarina—"the cross overseas"—for crusades in the Outremer (Crusader states in the eastern Mediterranean) and crux cismarina—"the cross this side of the sea"—for crusades in Europe.[5] The modern English "crusade" dates to the early 1700s.[6][A]

The Arabic word for struggle or contest, particularly one for the propagation of Islam—jihād—was used for a religious war of Muslims against unbelievers, often taught as a duty by the Quran and traditions.[7] "Franks" and "Latins" were used by the peoples of the Near East during the crusades for western Europeans, distinguishing them from the Byzantine Christians who were known as "Greeks".[8][9] "Saracen" was used for an Arab Muslim, derived from a Greek and Roman name for the nomadic peoples of the Syro-Arabian desert.[10] Crusader sources used the term "Syrians" to describe Arabic speaking Christians who were members of the Greek Orthodox Church, and "Jacobites" for those who were members of the Syrian Orthodox Church.[11]


Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century after the conversion of Emperor Constantine.[12] Stability in the West ended with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire at the end of the 5th century. In the East the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as Byzantium, continued until 1453. Its capital Constantinople was the largest city of the Christian world in the Middle Ages.[13]

Following the foundation of the Islamic religion by Muhammad in the 7th century, Muslim Arabs conquered territory ranging from the Indus River in the East, across North Africa and Southern France to the Iberian Peninsula in the West. This expansion was eventually halted by political and religious fragmentation in the Islamic world.[14] Al-Andalus became an independent state in Spain during the 8th century.[15] Shia Islam emerged, declaring that only descendants of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and daughter, Fatimah could lawfully be caliph. A wider split developed with the mainstream Sunni denomination of Islam on theology, ritual and law. In 969 North Africa, swathes of Western Asia including Jerusalem, Damascus and parts of the Mediterranean coastline broke away under the Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty, named after Fatimah.[16]

The Arabs did not require total submission to Islam from Jews or Christians. Considered People of the Book or dhimmis they could continue in their faith on payment of a poll tax. Toleration meant that in the Near East a majority of indigenous Christians—Greeks, Armenians, Syrians and Copts—remained under a minority Muslim elite.[17] In this period jihad was dormant and there was no appetite for devotional warfare to subjugate non-Muslims. The "Mad Caliph", Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, did destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the 4th-century church built on the site of Jesus's crucifixion and empty tomb in Jerusalem—and persecute Christians for a decade before turning on his Muslim subjects. But by the end of the 11th century contemporary reports are mixed. Some note that the Christians were allowed to keep their churches in good order and pilgrimages were allowed. Others talk of attacks on pilgrims.[18]

The initial phase of Turkic migration into the Middle East saw the intersection of the ruling Abbasid Caliphate and Turkic history from the 9th century. One driver of Middle Eastern state formation was the use of slave soldiers. Prisoners from the borderlands were transported to central Islamic lands, converted to Islam and given military training. Known as ghulam or mamluks the theory was, that as slaves they would be more loyal to their masters. In practice it took the Turks only a few decades to make the journey from guard, to commander, governor, dynastic founder and eventually king maker. Examples include the Tulunids in Egypt and Syria (868–905) and the Ikhshidids who followed in Egypt (935–969).[19]

In the 8th century, the Christians began campaigning to retake the Iberian peninsula in what has become known as the Reconquista. The recovery of territory by the Byzantine Empire reached its furthest extent in 1025, through the military successes of Emperor Basil II.[20] The Byzantine Empire and Islamic world were now historic centres of wealth, culture and military power. As such, they viewed the West as a backwater that presented little organised threat.[12]

Map of the Mediterranean Sea with the extent of the Byzantine Empire highlighted
Battles between Byzantine and Seljuk troops for the control of Anatolia in the 1070s.

The second wave of Turkish migration saw the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 10th century. These were a previously minor ruling clan from Transoxania who had recently converted to Islam and migrated into Iran to seek their fortunes.[21] In the two decades following their arrival they conquered Iran, Iraq and the Near East.[22] The Seljuks and their followers were from the Sunni tradition which quickly brought them into conflict with the Fatimids.[15] The Seljuks, with their syncretic religious practices and extreme brutality, remained aliens to their Arab subjects and neighbors. Their practice of distributing territories among members of the ruling dynasty weakened the integrity of the Muslim world on the eve of the crusades.[23]

Before the start of the Gregorian Reform in the middle of the 11th century, the papacy amounted to little more than a localised bishopric. The reform movement established an assertive, reformist papacy, eager to increase its power and influence. The doctrine of papal supremacy, however, was in conflict with eastern Christians whose traditional view was that the pope was only one of the five patriarchs of the Church alongside the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Differencies in custom, creed and practice spurred Pope Leo IX to send a legation to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 which ended in mutual excommunication and East–West Schism, although both churches remained in communion.[24]

Byzantium's relationship with Islam was no more quarrelsome than its relationship with the Slavs or the Western Christians. At the end of the 11th century the Empire's resources were strained by the arrival of enemies on all frontiers. In Italy they were confronted by the Normans; to the north, the Pechenegs, the Serbs and the Cumans, as well as the Seljuks to the east. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes attempted to confront the Seljuks to suppress sporadic raiding; this led to the 1071 defeat of the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert. Once considered a pivotal event by historians, Manzikert is now regarded as only one step in the conquest of Anatolia by the Great Seljuk Empire.[25] To maintain order, the Emperors were forced to recruit mercenary armies, sometimes from the very forces that posed the threat.[26]

Causes and precursors

Map showing the political situation on the eve of the First Crusade in 1097. Map by William Robert Shepherd in 1911

The First Crusade was a surprising and unexpected event for contemporary chroniclers, but historical analysis has demonstrated that it had its roots in developments earlier in the 11th century. Clerics and laymen increasingly recognised Jerusalem as worthy of penitential pilgrimage. The Seljuk hold on the city was weak and returning pilgrims reported the oppression of Christians and difficulties visiting shrines. Byzantine desire for western military aid converged with increasing willingness of the western nobility to accept papal military governance.[18][27]

In this period violent acts were commonly used for dispute resolution in Western Europe. The papacy's attempted mitigation of this moral danger was regulation of the widespread warfare.[28] Historians, such as Carl Erdmann, once thought the Peace and Truce of God movements restricting conflict between Christians from the 10th century had an impact. The influence is apparent in Pope Urban's speeches. But later scholars, such as Marcus Bull, assert that the movement's effectiveness was limited and it had already died out by the time of the crusades.[29]

The Christian population had a desire for a more effective Church evident in increased piety. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land expanded after safer routes through Hungary developed from 1000. It was an increasingly articulate piety within the knighthood and the developing devotional and penitential practises of the aristocracy that created a fertile ground for crusading appeals. Pope Alexander II developed a system of recruitment via oaths for military resourcing and Pope Gregory VII extended it into a network across Europe. The system supported the development of a doctrine of holy war, first detectable in the works of 4th-century theologian Augustine of Hippo.[30] The New Testament and earlier theologians' works had sporadically referred to the legitimate use of violence, but the evolution of a Christian theology of war was inevitable after the conversion of the Roman Empire. Roman citizenship became linked to Christianity and citizens were required to fight against the empire's enemies. Augustine maintained that an aggressive war was a sinful act, but also acknowledged that a "Just War" could be rationalised if it was proclaimed by a legitimate authority such as a king or bishop, it was defensive or for the recovery of lands and that a reasonble but not excessive degree of violence was employed.[31][32]

Christian warlords' fights against Muslim rulers in the western peripheries of Christendom were the earliest Church sponsored wars in the 11th century. Knights came from France under papal banner to besiege Barbastro in 1063. The Normans fighting against the Emirate of Sicily received absolution of their sins in 1076.[33][34] In 1074 Pope Gregory VII planned a display of military power reinforcing the principle of papal sovereignty. His vision of a holy war in support of Byzantium was the first real crusade prototype but the Catholic knights were unwilling to fight under the Pope's direct command.[35] Anselm of Lucca, a theologian in Pope Gregory's service, took the decisive step towards an authentic crusader ideology, stating that fighting for legitimate purposes could bring the remission of sins. With this revolutionary idea, as Andrew Jotischky put it, "The path to [the Council of] Clermont lay open."[36]

The motivations of the crusaders may never be well understood. One motivating factor may have been spiritual – a desire to gain penance through warfare. Historian Georges Duby's explanation was the crusades offered a means for economic advancement and social status for younger, landless sons of the aristocracy. This study has been challenged by other academics because it did not account for the wider kinship groups in Germany and Southern France. The anonymous Gesta Francorum talks about the straightforward economic attraction of gaining "great booty". This was true to an extent, but the rewards sought often did not always include the seizing of new lands as fewer crusaders settled than returned. A third explanation could be "a thirst for adventure and a general liking for warfare", but the great deprivations the crusaders experienced and the costs they incurred to join the crusades makes this seem less than likely. An additional sociological explanation was that they had no choice. Many crusaders were embedded in extended patronage systems, and if their feudal lords joined the crusade, they were obligated to do so as well.[37]

From 1092 the status quo in the region disintegrated following the death of the vizier and effective ruler of the Seljuk Empire, Nizam al-Mulk. This was closely followed by the deaths of the Seljuk Sultan Malik-Shah and the Fatimid khalif, Al-Mustansir Billah. Islamic historian Carole Hillenbrand has described this as analogous to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 with the phrase “familiar political entities gave way to disorientation and disunity”.[38] The confusion and division meant the Islamic world disregarded the world beyond; this made it vulnerable to, and surprised by, the First Crusade.[39]

Philosophical Development

Several Popes developed the legal and philosophical framework of crusading. The first crusade was advocated by Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 promising the remission of the participants' sins.[40] In 1123 Calixtus II created an equivalence between the Reconquista and crusading in the east and Eugenius III named the Iberian peninsular as an objective during the period of the Second Crusade.[41] While preaching the Second Crusade in Germany, Bernard of Clairvaux noticed that the Germans were determined to conquer the pagan Slavs. He persuaded Pope Eugenius III that this conflict was also comparable. The 1146 papal bull Divina dispensatione declared pagan conversion was a goal worthy of crusade. The theological basis of this remained obscure.[42] In 1179 the Third Council of the Lateran made a policy that encouraged those who suppressed sects considered heretical by the offering of papal protection, two year remission of penance and salvation for those killed through full indulgence.[43]

Following his election in 1198 Innocent III reshaped both ideology and the practice. He emphasised the purifying power of crusader oaths for those who had showed penitence, but also clarified that the absolution of sins was not a reward for the crusaders' sufferings, but a gift from God. Taxation was introduced obliging clerics to offer one-fortieth of their revenues for the funding of crusades. Donation chests set up in the Catholic churches became important instrument of fundraising. [44][45] He was the first to deploy the conceptual and legal apparatus developed for crusading to enforce papal rights in 1199. With his 1213 bull Quia maior he appealled to all Christians—reversing his opposition to the participation of commoners—urging them to take the cross, but also offering the possibility of vow redemption without losing spiritual benefits associated with crusades. Vow redemptions set up a precedent for trading in spiritual rewards, a practice scandalizing devout Christians and prompting the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.[46][47]

From the 1220s crusader privileges were regularly granted to those who fought against heretics, schismatics or religiously ignorant Christians.[48] Gregory IX avoided crusading terminology in the 1230s during his conflict with Frederick II, until Rome was threatened. Rome was seen as the Patrimony of Saint Peter and canon law regarded crusades as defensive wars to protect what was theoretically Christian territory. This was not universally accepted in Christian Europe and there was resistance to clerical taxation to fund these campaigns.[49] Innocent IV rationalized crusading ideology on the basis of the Christians' right to ownership. He acknowledged that Muslims could own lands, but emphasized that they were subject to Christ's authority. His ideology was out of touch of reality in the age of Muslim expansion in the eastern Mediterranean.[50] In the 16th century rivalries between Catholic monarchs prevented general anti-Protestant crusades but participants of individual military actions were rewarded with crusader privileges. These included the Irish Catholics' rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada's attack on England.[51]

In the eastern Mediterranean

First Crusade and aftermath

14th-century miniature of Peter the Hermit leading the People's Crusade
Miniature of Peter the Hermit leading the People's Crusade (Egerton 1500, Avignon, 14th century)

Byzantine Emperor Urban supported Alexios I Komnenos's request for military support, and exhorted a crusade, at the Councils of Piacenza and Clermont.[52] Thousands of predominently poor Christians led by the French priest Peter the Hermit formed the first response in what became known as the People's Crusade. Transitting through Germany they indulged in wide-ranging anti-Jewish activities and massacres. Shortly after leaving Byzantine controlled territory in Anatolia they were annihilated in a Turkish ambush at the battle of Civetot.[53] Subsequently, members of the high aristocracy led independent military contingents in loose, fluid arrangements based on bonds of lordship, family, ethnicity and language. Foremost amongst these were five princes pivotal to the campaign: Count Raymond of Toulouse, two Normans from southern Italy—Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew TancredGodfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin who led a force from Lotharingia, and Germany. They were joined by a northern French army led by: Robert Curthose, Count Stephen of Blois, and Count Robert of Flanders.

Including non-combatants the army may have numbered 100,000. After travelling east by land they were cautiously welcomed by Alexios at [[Byzantium] late in 1096.[54] He extracted a promise from them to return all former Byzantine territories recocovered and that their first objective should be Nicaea. While the ruling Seljuk Sultan—Kilij Arslan—was away resolving a territorial dispute a combined Frankish siege and Byzantine naval assault captured the city in June 1097. During an arduous march across Anatolia beset with starvation, thirst and disease the crusade gained an initial experience of Turkish tactics utilising lightly armoured mounted archers at Dorylaeum and developed links with local Armenians. Baldwin left with a small force to establish the county of Edessa, the first Crusader state, early in 1098.[55]

The siege of Antioch Antioch lasted eight months before the crusaders gained entry in June 1098, massacring most inhabitants, including local Christians. Kerbogha, the Atabeg of Mosul, led a relief force to the city, but Bohemond repulsed him. There was the a delay of months while the crusaders debated who would have the captured territory. This ended with news that the Fatimid Egyptians had taken Jerusalem. Despite his promise Bohemond retained Antioch and remained while Raymond led the remaining army along the coast to Jerusalem.[56] The siege of the city was a stalemate until support transported by the Genoese to Jaffa tilted the balance. For two days the crusaders massacred the inhabitants and pillaged the city. Historians believe the accounts of the numbers killed were exaggerated, but the narrative of massacre reinforced the crusaders' reputation for barbarism.[57] Godfrey secured the Frankish position, defeating an Egyptian force at Ascalon.[58]

Many crusaders considered their pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. Only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry remained to defend Palestine. The support of troops from Lorraine enabled Godfrey, over the claims of Raymond, to take the position titled Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. A year later the Lorrainers foiled the attempt of Dagobert of Pisa, the papal legate, to make Jerusalem a theocracy on Godfrey's death instead installing Baldwin, as the first Latin king.[59] Bohemond returned to Europe to fight the Byzantines from Italy, but his 1108 expedition ended in failure. Raymond's Provencal successors completed capture the city of Tripoli after his death with the support of other Crusader rulers and the Genoese. [60] Relations between Edessa and Antioch were variable: they fought together in the defeat at Battle of Harran, but the Antiocheans claimed suzerainty and attempted to block the return of Count Baldwin—later king of Jerusalem—from his captivity after the battle.[61] The Franks were engaged in Near East politics with Muslims and Christians often fighting on both sides. The expansion of Norman Antioch came to an end in 1119 with a major defeat by the Turks at the battle of the Field of Blood.[62]

Limited written evidence before 1160 indicates the crusade was barely noticed in the Islamic world. Probably this is the result of cultural misunderstanding. The Muslims did not recognise the crusaders as religiously motivated warriors intent on conquest and settlement. They assumed this was the latest in a long line of attacks by Byzantine mercenaries. The Islamic world was divided, with rival rulers in Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo and Baghdad. This gave the crusaders an consolidation opportunity before a pan-Islamic counter-attack.[63] The constant warfare in the early 12th century led to high mortality rates among the nobility along with a policy of encouraging settlers from Europe and local Christians from across the Jordan.[64]

Loss of Edessa and the Second Crusade

Contemporary photograph of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
The present-day Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known to the crusaders as "the Temple of Solomon". This was the founding headquarters of the Knights Templar and the order derived its name from the location.

The rise of Imad ad-Din Zengi threatened the Franks. He became Atabeg of Mosul in 1127, expanded his control to Aleppo and in 1144 he conquered Edessa. Two years later Pope Eugenius called for a second crusade. The French Benedictine abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux spread the message that the loss was the result of sinfulness. Simultaneously, the anti-Semitic crusade preaching of the Cistercian monk, Rudolf, initiated more massacres of Jews in the Rhineland.[65] This was part of a general increase in crusading activity, including in the Iberian peninsular and northern Europe.[66]

Zengi was murdered in uncertain circumstances. His elder son Saif ad-Din succeeded him as atabeg of Mosul while a younger son Nur ad-Din succeeded in Aleppo.[67] King Louis VII of France and Emperor Conrad III of Germany were the first ruling monarchs to campaign but the crusade was not a success. Edessa's destruction made its recovery impossible, and the objectives were unclear. The French held the Byzantines responsible for their defeats by the Seljuks in Anatolia, while the Byzantines reinterated claims on future territorial gains in northern Syria. As a result the crusaders broke a long period of cooperation between Jerusalem and Seljuk Damascus. Bad luck, poor tactics and a feeble five-day siege of the city led to argument; the barons of Jerusalem withdrew support and the crusaders retreated before the arrival of a Zengi's sons' army.[68] The chronicler William of Tyre related, and modern historians have concurred, that morale fell, hostility to the Byzantines grew and distrust developed between the newly arrived crusaders and those that had made the region their home.[69]

Rise of Saladin and the Third Crusade

Jerusalem demonstrated an increasing interest in expanding into Egyptian territory after the capture of Ascalon in 1153 opened a strategic road south. A year later Nur ad-Din became the first Muslim to unite Aleppo and Damascus in the crusading era.[70] In 1163 King Amalric initiated a failed invasion of Egypt which prompted Nur ad-Din move against the Franks gaining a strategic foothold on the Nile. His Kurdish general, Shirkuh, stormed Egypt and only an Egyptian–Jerusalemite alliance forced his return to Syria. Amalric broke the alliance in a series of ferocious attacks and the Egyptians requested military support. Shirkuh was deployed for a second time, accompanied by his nephew, Yusuf ibn Ayyub, who became known by his Arabic honorific Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn ("the goodness of faith"), which has been westernised as Saladin. Amalric retreated and Shirkuh became vizier. Saladin successfully intrigued to be become Shirkuh's successor on his death in 1171.[71]

Miniature of Phillip of France arriving in the eastern Mediterranean
Miniature showing King Philip II of France arriving in the eastern Mediterranean (Royal MS 16 G VI, middle of the 14th century)

Nur al-Din died in 1174 and Saladin became regent for his 11-year-old son, As-Salih Ismail al-Malik. The prince died seven years later, but Saladin had already seized Damascus and much of Syria.[72] Overconfidence led to an initial defeat by the Franks at the Battle of Montgisard but Saladin established a domain stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates through a decade of politics, coercion and low-level military action.[73] In 1186 a life-threatening illness prompted him to make good on his propaganda as the champion of Islam heighten the campaign against the Franks.[74] King Guy responded by raising the largest ever Jerusalemite. This force was lured into inhospitable terrain without water and Saladin routed them at the Battle of Hattin. Christian nobles were taken prisoner, including Guy. Saladin offered the option of leaving within 40 days or remaining in peace under Islamic rule. Jerusalem and much of Palestine quickly fellfell to Saladin.[75]

Pope Gregory VIII issued a papal bull titled Audita tremendi that proposed what became known as the Third Crusade. In August 1189, the freed King Guy attempted to recover Acre by surrounding the strategic city and a long stalemate ensued.[76] Travelling overland Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I died crossing the Saleph River in Cilicia and only a few of his men reached their destination. King Richard I of England travelled by sea. [77] Philip II of France was the first king to arrive at the siege.[78] The arrival of the French and Angevins turned the tide in the conflict, and the Muslim garrison of Acre surrendered. Philip considered his vow fulfilled and returned to France, leaving most of his forces behind. Richard travelled south along the Mediterranean coast and recaptured Jaffa. Twice he advanced to within a day's march of Jerusalem, but lacked the resources to capture and defend the city. This was the end of Richard's crusading career and damaged Frankish morale. A negotiated three-year truce allowed Frankish access to Jerusalem.[79] The Crusader states survived, confined to a narrow coastal strip.[80] Emperor Frederick I's successor, Henry VI, announced a new crusade without papal encouragement in 1195. Henry died before departing for the crusade, but the arrival of the German crusaders prompted Saladin's brother, Al-Adil I to sign a five-year truce in 1198.[81]

Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople

Image of siege of Constantinople
Conquest of the Orthodox city of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 (BNF Arsenal MS 5090, 15th century)

In 1198 the recently elected Pope Innocent III announced a new crusade. His references to the Pharaoh's fall before the Exodus established the ideology of crusades against Egypt. An invasion of Egypt could also serve the Venetian merchants' interests, because their Genoese competitors had taken control of the profitable commerce with Egypt.[82][83]

Three French aristocrats, all descended from families of crusaders—Theobald of Champagne, Louis of Blois and Baldwin of Flanders—took the cross in 1199 and 1200. They entered into a contract with Venice for 85,000 marks to transport a force of 30,000 and the Venetians stopped all other commerce in order to fulfil it. On the premature death of the wealthy Theobald, the Crusader leaders elected the Italian Boniface of Montferrat as the new commander of the campaign. Many crusaders choose other ports of departure and only around 15,000 crusaders arrived at Venice. They could not pay the full amount due to the Venetians, but Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice, introduced a new scheme. He proposed that Venice would be repaid with the profits of future conquests and diverted the crusaders to seize the Christian city of Zara. The papal legate agreed as this was now the only way that the crusade could continue, but some crusades deserted rather than fight fellow Christians. The financial shortfall also explains the attraction of an offer received from the exiled Byzantine prince, Alexios Angelos and supported by Boniface. Alexios offered 10,000 Greek soldiers, 200,000 marks and the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. In return he wanted the overthrow of his uncle Emperor Alexios III.[84]

Innocent excommunicated the crusaders for the assault on Zara, but quickly absolved the French and did not blame them for voyaging on the excommunicated Venetians' ships in order to maintain the crusade. The crusaders entered Constantinople easily. Alexios III fled and his nephew was placed on the imperial throne. Alexios IV's position was weak due to his subjects' resistance. He encouraged the crusade to remain, as support, while he stripped the city of treasure to fulfil his financial commitments. His Greek opponents harried the crusaders and Alexios IV was murdered in a violent anti-Latin revolt. Left without ships, supplies or food the crusaders had little option but to sack the city to take by force what Alexios had promised. Clerics in the crusader camp described the Greeks as schismatics, oath-breakers and regicides and promised indulgences for those who fell fighting against them.[85] Three days of pillaging churches and killing many Greek Orthodox Christians followed.[86] While not unusual behaviour for the time contemporaries such as Innocent and  Ali ibn al-Athir saw it in its scale and destruction an atrocity against centuries of classical and Christian civilisation.[87]

A council of six Venetians and six Franks selected Baldwin as an Emperor, thus establishing a Latin Empire in Byzantine territory. The Crusaders partinioned the territory. Baldwin retained seven-eights of Constantinople, along with Thrace, northwest Anatolia and Aegean islands. Venice gained a maritime domain, including one-eighth of Constantinople. Boniface received Thessalonika and central Greece. The crusade did continue. Boniface's conquest of Attica and Boeotia laid the basis of the Duchy of Athens. His vassals, William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin, conquered the Morea, establishing the Principality of Achaea. The Latin Empire was surrounded by enemies. Byzantine successor states emerged in the east—Nicaea and Trapezunt, and in the west—Epirus. Both Baldwin and Boniface died in battles, fighting the Bulgarians.[88][89]

The crusade had only a minor impact on the situation in the Near East. Baldwin's defeats led the papal legate releasing the crusaders in the Empire from their obligation to fight for the Holy Land to Innocent's great annoyance. Maybe a fifth of the total number of crusaders had travelled to Palestina via other routes, including a large Flemish fleet. Joining King Aimery on campaign they forced al-Adil into a six-year truce. The Fourth Crusade did demonstrate the required levels of planning and resourcing for a successful Egyptian crusade.[90][91]

Conflict with Egypt including the Fifth and Sixth Crusades

13th-century Europe saw popular outbursts of ecstatic piety in support of the crusades, such as that resulting in the Children's Crusade in 1212. Large groups of young adults and children spontaneously gathered, believing their innocence would enable success where their elders had failed. Few, if any at all, journeyed to the eastern Mediterranean.[92][93] The lack of immediate threat and the wait for the expiration of a number of treaties meant that crusading did not resume until 1217, after Innocent's death. In what is categorised as the Fifth Crusade a force—primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders—led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria achieved little. The crusaders hoped that by attacking the Egyptian power base of the Ayyubids the Muslim hold of Jerusalem could be broken. Egypt was isolated from other Islamic power centres, it would have been easier for the crusaders to defend and it was self sufficient in food. Leopold and John of Brienne, the King of Jerusalem, besieged and captured Damietta, but an army advancing into Egypt was compelled to surrender. Damietta was returned, and an eight-year truce agreed.[94]

Manuscript illumination of five men outside a fortress
Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (left) meets al-Kamil (right), illumination from Giovanni Villani's Nuova Cronica (Vatican Library ms. Chigiano L VIII 296, 14th century).

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II married Queen Isabella in 1225, immediately claiming the kingdom of Jerusalem. Frederick was empathetic to the Muslim world, having grown up in Sicily, with a Muslim bodyguard and even a harem. He was excommunicated for abandoning a crusade due to illness but finally in 1228 he journeyed to Acre. Isabella II died in 1228 shortly after giving birth to a son, Conrad, who through his mother was now rightfully king of Jerusalem, as well as Frederick's heir.[95]

Frederick's great diplomatic skills meant the Sixth Crusade was largely a negotiation supported by force. A peace treaty was agreed upon giving Franks most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory that linked the city to Acre while the Muslims controlled their sacred areas. In return, an alliance was made with Al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt, against all of his enemies of whatever religion. The treaty, and suspicions about Frederick's ambitions in the region, made him unpopular, and he was forced to return to his domains when they were attacked by Pope Gregory IX.[96] The sparsely populated Jerusalem was in Christian hands and the territorial reach was almost that of the kingdom before the disaster at Hattin in 1187. This brief renaissance for Frankish Jerusalem was illusory.[97]

Frederick's departure heralded a period of absentee monarchs—Conrad from 1225 until 1254, his son Conradin until 1268. The House of Ibelin and other aristocrats attempted to assume regency control leading to a factional contest between them, and between them and Frederick's representative Richard Filangieri in the War of the Lombards. Tyre, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights and Pisa supported Filangieri. The opposition was the Ibelins, Acre, the Templars and Genoa. The opposition prevailed in 1242 with the capture of Tyre and subsequently provided a succession of Ibelin and Cypriot regents, elected by local nobles.[98] As a result, the kingdom could no longer rely on the resources of Frederick's other realms and was left dependent on Ayyubid division, the crusading orders and other western aid for survival.[99]

Attention given to the conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy often meant that the responsibility for the prioritisation of campaigns in the Crusader states fell to secular, rather than papal, leadership. What is known as the Barons' Crusade was first led by King Theobald I of Navarre and when he returned to his lands, by the king of England's brother, the newly arrived Richard of Cornwall. Sultan Al-Kamil had died and his family were battling for the succession in Egypt and Syria. This allowed the crusaders to follow Frederick's tactics of combining forceful diplomacy with playing rival factions off against each other.[100]

The century saw a new military threat to the Christian and Islamic worlds. The Mongols swept west from Mongolia through southern Russia, Poland and Hungary while also defeating the Seljuks and threatening the Crusader states. Although the Mongols were predominantly pagans, some were Nestorian Christians. This gave the papacy hope they might become allies. But when Pope Innocent IV wrote to the Mongols to question what right they had to attack peaceful Christians they replied by demanding his total submission to their authority.[101] The Mongols displaced a central Asian Turkish people, the Khwarazmian, providing Al-Kamil's son As-Salah with useful allies. The Khwarazmians savagely captured Jerusalem, pursuing the Christian refugees. Only 300 reached safety at Jaffa. A combined Egyptian–Khwarazmian army then annihilated a Frankish–Damascene army at the battle of La Forbie. It was the final occasion the Crusader states had the resources to put an army in the field. As-Salah conquered almost all mainland territories, confining the Crusaders to the coastal towns.[102][103]

Crusades of Saint Louis

13th-century politics in the eastern Mediterranean were dominated by the French, led by the devout Louis IX, king of France, and his ambitious brother Charles I of Anjou. Louis sent an embassy to the Mongols in Iran in 1249 seeking a Franco-Mongol alliance. When the reply found him in Palestine in 1251 it was again only a demand for tribute. Louis organised a new crusade, called the Seventh Crusade, to attack Egypt, arriving in 1249. He was defeated at Mansura and captured as he retreated to Damietta. Another ten-year truce was agreed. Louis and his nobles were ransomed while the other prisoners were given a choice between conversion to Islam or beheading. He remained in Syria until 1254 to consolidate the Crusader states. A brutal power struggle developed in Egypt between various Mamluk leaders and the remaining weak Ayyubid rulers. The threat presented by an invasion by the Mongols led to one of the competing Mamluk leaders, Qutuz, seizing the sultanate in 1259 and uniting with another faction led by Baibars to defeat the Mongols at Ain Jalut. The Mamluks then quickly gained control of Damascus and Aleppo before Qutuz was assassinated and Baibers assumed control.[104][105]

From 1265 Baibars drove the Franks to a few fortresses and towns.[106] Dissension in the Crusader states led to conflicts such as the War of Saint Sabas. Venice drove the Genoese from Acre to Tyre where they continued to trade with Egypt.[107] In 1270 Charles turned his brother's new crusade, known as the Eighth, to his own advantage by persuading him to attack Tunis. Their army was devastated by disease, and Louis himself died at Tunis on 25 August. The fleet returned to France. Prince Edward, the future king of England, and a small retinue arrived too late for the conflict but continued to the Holy Land in what is known as the Ninth Crusade. Edward survived an assassination attempt, negotiated a ten-year truce, and then returned to manage his affairs in England. This ended the last significant crusading effort in the eastern Mediterranean.[108]

Decline and fall

13th-century miniature of the Siege of Acre
Miniature of the Siege of Acre (1291) (Estoire d'Oultre-Mer, BNF fr. 2825, fol 361v, ca. 1300)

The causes of the decline in crusading and the failure of the Crusader states are multi-faceted. The nature of crusades was unsuited to the defence of the Holy Land. Crusaders were on a personal pilgrimage and usually returned when it was completed. Although the philosophy of crusading changed over time, the crusades continued to be conducted by short-lived armies led by independently minded potentates, rather than with centralised leadership. What the Crusader states needed were large standing armies. Religious fervour enabled significant feats of military endeavour but proved difficult to direct and control. Political and religious conflict in Europe combined with failed harvests reduced Latin Europe's interest in Jerusalem. Ultimately, even though the fighting was also at the edge of the Islamic world, the huge distances made the mounting of crusades and the maintenance of communications insurmountably difficult. It enabled the Islamic world, under the charismatic leadership of Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, the ruthless Baibars and others, to use the logistical advantages of proximity to victorious effect.[109] The mainland Crusader states were finally extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291.[110]

In Europe


19th-century painting of the surrender of Granada
La Rendición de Granada – 1882 painting of the Surrender of Granada in 1491 by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

The disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba into tiny Muslim states, or taifas, created the political conditions of the Reconquista in 1031. The Christian realms had no common identity or shared history based on tribe or ethnicity. As a result, León, Navarre and Catalonia united and divided several times in the 11th and 12th centuries. Although small, all had developed a military aristocracy and technique.[111] By the time of the Second Crusade three kingdoms had become powerful enough to embark on the conquest of Islamic territory—Castile and León, Aragon and Portugal.[112]

In 1212, the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was won by the Spanish with the support of 70,000 foreign combatants responding to a crusade preached by Innocent III. Many of the foreigners deserted because of the tolerance the Spanish demonstrated for the defeated Muslims. For the Spanish, the Reconquista was a war of domination rather than a war of extinction.[113] This contrasted with the treatment of the Christians formerly living under Muslim rule, the Mozarabs. The Roman Rite was relentlessly imposed, and the native Christians were absorbed into mainstream Catholicism.[114] Al-Andalus, Islamic Spain, was completely suppressed in 1492 when the Emirate of Granada surrendered. At this point the remaining Muslim and Jewish inhabitants were expelled from the peninsula.[115]

Campaigns against heretics and schismatics

Two illuminations: the pope admonishing a group of people and mounted knights attacking unarmed people with swords
Miniatures showing Pope Innocent III excommunicating, and the crusaders massacring, Cathars(BL Royal 16 G VI, fol. 374v, 14th century)

There were modest efforts to suppress a dualistic Christian sect called the Cathars in southern France.[116] After a thirty-year delay and the murder of the papal legate by a retainer of Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse Pope Innocent III preached the Albigensian Crusade that is named after the city of Albi, one of the main centres of Catharism.[117] The northern French aristocrats eagerly joined the campaign, because they could achieve the remission of their sins during a forty days' military campaign in a territory within reach. The French kings were initially reluctant, but they were the crusade's main beneficiaries, because Toulouse was united with the crown.[118]

The Albigensian Crusade proved that waging a war against the heretics' supporters was more efficient than fighting against the heretics themselves. Feudal lords who failed in its suppression had their lands confiscated and titles forfeited. Pressure was exerted on the Commune of Milan after allegations the city tolerated Catharism in 1212.[119] Two Hungarian invasions of Bosnia, the alleged homeland of a legendary Cathar "anti-pope", were proclaimed crusades in 1234 and 1241. A crusade forced the Stedinger peasants to pay the tithes to their archbishop in 1234.[120] The historian Norman Housley notes the strong political undertones and connection between heterodoxy and anti-papalism in Italy. Indulgences were offered to anti-heretical groups such as the Militia of Jesus Christ and the Society of the Blessed Virgin in Milan.[121]

Crusading against Christians declined in the 15th century, the exceptions were the six failed crusades against the followers of the thinking of Jan Huss in Bohemia and the attack on the Waldensians in Savoy. The Hussites were Czech religious radicals, with strong anti-German bias. The Waldensians denied that the sacraments were necessary for salvation. The Protestant Reformation prompted further thoughts on crusades.[122][123]

Political campaigns

Innocent III called for a crusade against Markward von Annweiler, who claimed the regency of Sicily in opposition to the papacy, labelling him as "another Saladin". Although military campaigns were fought, the crusade ended only with Markward's death. The Albigensian Crusades established a direct precedent for crusades against Christians. The pope and the Inquisition would claim that anyone not with them was against them and label opponents as heretics without requiring evidence. [124][125]

Gregory IX used crusading terminology in the 1240 when Frederick threatened to take Rome. These Italian wars of attrition against the Hohenstaufen were unsuitable for crusading. There were no firm objectives or clear limitations. The conflict continued after Frederick II's death when the focus moved to Sicily. In 1263, Pope Urban IV offered full crusading indulgences in return for its conquest to Charles of Anjou.[126]

The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the full power of the papacy into line behind Charles. He prepared to launch a crusade against Constantinople but, in what became known as the Sicilian Vespers, an uprising fomented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos proclaimed Peter III of Aragon as king of Sicily in 1282. In response, Martin excommunicated Peter and called for a crusade against Aragon, which was unsuccessful.[127] The Sicilian crusades ended with the Treaty of Caltabellota in 1302, but crusade indulgences continued to play a major role in the defence of papal interests in Italy in the 14th century. A crusade was proclaimed against Venice during a conflict over Ferrara; against Louis IV, King of Germany, when he marched to Rome for his imperial coronation; and against the free companies of mercenaries roaming Italy.[128]

Baltic crusades

Map of the branches of the Teutonic Order in Europe around 1300 showing sovereign territory in the Baltic and the Grand Master's HQ in Venice
Map of the branches of the Teutonic Order in Europe around 1300. Shaded area is sovereign territory, Grand Master HQ in Venice is highlighted)

The tribes of the Baltic region resisted Christianity for a longer period than most peoples in Europe.[129] The Slavic Wends lived in almost Western-type principalities between the rivers Elbe and Vistula. To their east, the Baltic Prussians, Lithuanians, Latvians and Curonians were under the rule of independent chieftains. The Finno-Ugrians of the northwestern Baltic formed ephermeral confederations of extended family groups.[130]

German and Danish rulers launched regular campaigns to subjugate the Wends or to take vengeance of ther raids over the Elbe.[131] Bernard of Clairvaux urged the Germans and Danes to continue the war until all heathens were baptised or killed, but the crusaders preferred to seize new lands and serfs.[132]

The Danish and Swedish rulers' participation in crusading ventures served their economic interests. King Valdemar II of Denmark's conquest of the pagan Estonians completed his control of the Baltic trade routes. The Swedes launched crusades against Finnish tribes to abolish the Novgorodian merchants' monopoly in fur trade. The popes sanctioned these military actions, because they wanted to prevent the Novgorodians from converting the Finns to their Orthodox faith.[133]

The military orders' presence in the Baltic was conspicouos from the early 13th century. They provided permanent garrisons and defended the important German commercial center, Riga. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Order of Dobrzyń were established as local bishops' private armies. The Sword Brothers were notorious for their unprecedented cruelty to the local population, pagans and converts alike. Both orders were absorbed by the Teutonic Knighs. The latter had been founded during the 1190s in Palestine, but their strong links to German imperium diverted efforts from the Holy Land to the Baltic. Between 1229 to 1290, the Teutonic Knights subjugated most Baltic tribes and established a realm of their own—a ruthless and exploitative monastic state.[134][135]

Lithuania remained pagan and unconquered.[136] The Knights developed a kind of "crusading tourism", inviting foreign aristocrats to their regular Reisen, or raids, against the Lithuanians. The French Marshall Boucicaut, Henry Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV of England), and Chaucer's Knight were among the participants of these popular events of chivalric entertainment. The conversion of Jogaila, Grand Prince of Lithuania, and his marriage with Queen Jadwiga of Poland, raised doubts about the rationale behind the Knights' existence. In 1410, a united Polish–Lithuanian army routed the Knights at Tannenberg. The monastic state survived, from 1466 under Polish suzerainty, but Prussia was transformed into a secular duchy in 1525, Livonia in 1562.[137]

Late medieval and early modern crusades

The Seljuk Sultanate of Rum split into small Turkish beyliks, or principalities, in the late 13th century. Located in northeastern Anatolia, the Ottoman Turks took advantage of a Byzantine civil war. They established a strong presence in Europe when they captured the Byzantine fortress at Gallipoli 1354. Victory over the Serbians at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to Ottoman control of the Balkans from the Danube to the Gulf of Corinth and this was further confirmed by victory over French crusaders and King Sigismund of Hungary in the Battle of Nicopolis of 1396. Sultan Murad II destroyed a large Serbian and Hungarion crusade at Varna on the Black Sea in 1444 and four years later defeated the Hungarians again at the second Battle of Kosovo.[138][139]

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the crusading response was largely symbolic even when there was a genuine plan. An example is Duke Phillip of Burgundy's 1454 promotion of a crusade, that never materialised, at the Feast of the Pheasant.[140] The 16th century saw growing rapprochement with the Habsburgs, French, Spanish and Venetians all signing treaties with the Ottomans. King Francis I of France sought allies from all quarters, including from German Protestant princes and Muslims. He allied with Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.[141] Crusading became chiefly a money raising exercise with precedence given to the commercial and political concerns. As the military threat presented by the Turks diminished crusading in anti-Ottoman politics became obsolete.[142] Crusades against the Ottomans came to an end with the Holy League in 1699.[143]

Crusader states

Map of the states of the eastern Mediterranean in 1135
Map of the eastern Mediterranean in 1135. The Frankish crusader states are indicated with a red cross . The Principality of Armenian Cilicia was under Armenian rule. The remnant of the Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the Seljuk Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

Demography in the Outremer

The eastern Mediterranean Crusader states—the first example of European colonialism—are known as Outremer, from the French outre-mer or "Europe Overseas".[144] Outremer was a multiethnic community, with a Frank minority amongst Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians. The Muslim and local Christian communities appear to have been nearly equivalent in size, but they were less integrated than previously thought. The Palestinian Christians lived around Jerusalem and in an arc stretching from Jericho and the Jordan to Hebron in the south. Comparing archaeologically detectable Christian churches built before the Muslim conquest and Ottoman census records, Jotischky concludes that some local Greek Orthodox communities disappeared in Palestine before the crusaders' arrival, but most of them survived at least until the 16th century. The Kingdom of Jerusalem's central areas appear to have had a Muslim majority population from the 7th century, when the Samaritan communities were destroyed. The Muslims mainly adhered to Sunnitism, but Shi'ite communities existed in Galilee. The Druzes, a nonconformist Muslim group, were first mentioned as living in the mountains of Tripoli during the Crusader period. Among the minority Christian groups, the Maronites were concentrated in Tripoli, the Jacobites in Antioch and Edessa. Most Armenians also lived in the northern Crusader states, but Armenian communities existed in all major towns. The Jewish population survived in the coastal towns and in some Galilean villages.[145][146]

At the zenith of the Crusader states, the total Latin population of the region reached around 250,000 with Jerusalem amounting to about 120,000 and the total combined numbers in Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa being broadly similar.[147] By way of context, Josiah Russell roughly estimates the population of what he calls "Islamic territory" as 12.5 million in 1000—Anatolia 8 million, Syria 2 million, Egypt 1.5 million and North Africa 1 million — with the European areas that provided crusaders having a population of 23.7 million. He estimates that by 1200 that these figures had risen to 13.7 million in Islamic territory—Anatolia 7 million, Syria 2.7 million, Egypt 2.5 million and North Africa 1.5 million— while the Crusaders' home countries population was 35.6 million. Russell acknowledges that much of Anatolia was Christian or under the Byzantines and "Islamic" areas such as Mosul and possibly Baghdad had significant Christian populations.[148] The Kingdom of Jerusalem's Frankish population was predominately located in three cities. By the 13th century the population of Acre probably exceeded 60,000, then came Tyre and the capital itself was the smallest of the three with a population somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.[149] Frankish peasants' presence can be detected in about one-fifth of countryside settlements—in 235 villages. Some of their settlements were planned villages, established to encourage settlers from the West, but Frankish peasants also shared villages with native Christians.[150]


Outremer, as historian Andrew Jotischky emphasizes, was a "frontier society", with a Frankish elite ruling over the native population, the latter being closely linked to foreign communities, hostile to the Franks.[151] Historians have developed two principal models on the relationship between settlers and natives. The assimilation model, most popular at the height of French colonialism, proposes that the Franks were tolerant and quickly acculturated to the natives. The opposite segregationist model, emerging in the 1950s, projects a divided society, with Franks secluding in their forts and exploiting the indigenous peoples, Muslims and Christians alike. Jotischky criticizes both models, noting that the aristocracy developed into an "international caste" in whole Europe in the crusading period, but Frankish commoners could hardly segregate themselves from the natives.[152] Historian Christopher Tyerman proposes a "layered political and legal society", with self-governing ethnic communities and with inter-ethnic relations controlled by the ruling Franks.[153] Ideological bias have also influenced studies on Crusader society. The Crusader states' history can provide arguments to both historians who are convinced that people of diverse cultural background can peacefuly live together, and to those thinking that the "clash of civilisations" is inevitable.[154]

In the 1120s, Fulcher of Chartres claimed that the Crusaders' assimilation had already been completed, stating that "we who were Occidentals have become Orientals". He also referred to frequent intermarriages between Franks and Greek Orthodox or Armenian Christians.[155] The taking a Muslim wife was only possible after her conversion by baptism. Children born to converts, known as poulani, were accused of laziness by Western European visitors to the Holy Land.[156] Visitors coming from the West also realised the cultural differences between them and the local Franks.[157] The Frankish aristocrats had accommodated themselves to the new environment through adopting, at least partially, the natives' way of life, including loose-fitting clothes and local hygiene. A European observer wrote with disdain of the clouds of perfume surrounding the delegates from Jerusalem in 1184.[158]

The basic division in Crusader society was between Frank and non-Frank, and not between Christian and Muslim. Full citizenship could not be achieved without conversion to Catholicism. The Franks imposed their own feudal culture on agricultural production. This made little difference to the conditions of the subject peoples. The Muslim poll tax on non-Muslims was reversed and no laws limited the Frankish aristocrats' power to raise taxation at punitive levels. Still, Ibn Jubayr, a Muslim traveler from Granada, noted that the Galilean Muslim peasants were prosperous in comparison with their peers under Muslim rule. The key differentiator in status and economic position was between urban and rural dwellers. Indigenous Christians could gain higher status and acquire wealth through commerce and industry in towns but few Muslims lived in urban areas except those in servitude. The indigenous peoples lived in autonomous communities under the rule of their raʾīs, or headmen.[159] Each community operated its own courts for civil proceedings and petty crimes, but only the Franks' cour des bourgeois could pass judgement in cases relating both Franks and local Christians, Muslims or Jews. Greek Orthodox were regularly employed as port officials and they also acted as jurors, along with Franks, in the cour de la fronde, or market court.[160]

The native population lived in casalia, or rural settlements, of various size. The smallest casalia included three families, but more than forty families lived in the largest native settlements. Their modest houses surrounded a public square and the outermost houses were built side by side to form a defensive wall. The village communities took care of the cisterns, threshing floors, mills and ovens. The Frank peasants' planned villages followed a linear design, with a central road and two rows of detached houses. Their two-storey houses were made of rubble and ashlar, and their walls were plastered. The landowners and their officials lived in manor houses in the countryside. The manor houses included stables, warehouses, workshops and a hall-house or a tower, because they were the centers of local administration and industry.[161]

Antropological research of the cemeteries of the Crusader period has revealed that infant mortality was high, but not higher than experienced in other regions. Most children died of meningitis, anemia or periostitis. Adults suffered from gout and brain abscess.[162]


The position of the Frankish monarchs was stable. The kings of Jerusalem had exclusive right to collect tolls in the ports and the royal demesne was extensive. The hereditary principle governed the succession to the throne from the 1120s. King consorts from Europe ruled the kingdom from 1187 to 1228, giving rise to conflicts between their retainers and the old nobility. The nobility emerged from the retainers of the leaders of the First Crusade, but it was always open to immigrants from the west.[163]

Historian Peter Lock states, "legal and constitutional developments in Jerusalem kept abreast, if not in the forefront, of similar developments in Europe". The holders of the major fiefs were members of the kings' High Court—an advisory, legislative and judicial body. The great officers of the realm also attended the High Court. The monarchs convened the delegates of knights, clerics and burghers to general assemblies to discuss matters of general interest. The laws passed at the High Court, or the Assizes of Jerusalem, were collected by Philip of Novara and John of Ibelin in the 13th century.[164] The aristocrats protected their fiefs against the monarchs' arbitrary actions, withdrawing their loyalty from kings ignoring their liberties. Aristocratic opponents to the Hohenstaufen monarchs established the Commune of Acre to replace the High Court, because only the monarch or his representative could summon the High Court.[165]

Religious life

The Latin Church developed in an initial ad-hoc manner and under lay control. Antioch and Jerusalem were transformed into Latin patriarchal sees. Latin clerics were appointed to the local bishoprics, replacing Orthodox bishops in the coastal towns. The Catholic Church focussed on the towns and pilgrimages. Large Romanesque cathedrals, apt for the reception of masses, were built at the most popular shrines. The newly built Church of the Holy Sepulchre, completed in 1149, enclosed both the site of Christ's crucification and his tomb. Its new design gave rise to a new element of Easter liturgy, named Visitatio sepulchri, commemorating the visit of Jesus' female disciples to his tomb. The first Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf of Chocques, ousted the Greek Orthodox monks from the Holy Sepulchre, but he had to back off, because the miracle of Easter Fire—the misterious lighting of the candles in the church—did not work in their absence.[166][167]

The Greek Orthodox were left without a higher clergy, because the Latins regarded the Greek Orthodox Church as an integral part of the universal Church. The appointment of Latin bishops had little effect on the Arabic-speaking local Orthodox clergy, because the Orthodox bishops had also been foreigners, sent from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin bishops appointed Orthodox coadjutor bishops to head the Orthodox clergy in their dioceses. Latin and Orthodox parishioners shared the same churches in many villages. The Orthodox clergy sticked to their customs, outraging the papal legate James of Vitry in the 13th century. Orthodox monasteries were rebuilt and Orthodox monastic life revived. Under exceptional circumstances, mainly for political reasons, Greek clerics were appointed to replace the Latin patriarchs in Antioch.[168][169]

The spiritual life of the Monophysite Armenians, Copts and Jacobites, the Nestorians and the Maronites were administered by their own bishops, because the Latins regarded them as heretics. They were allowed to keep their altars in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Aimery of Limoges, Patriarch of Antioch, managed to bring the Maronites into communion with Rome around 1181, establishing a precedent for the Uniate Churches.[170] Muslims and Jews were forbidden to live in Jerusalem and some mosques were converted into Christian churches. The Franks, however, did not force the local Muslims to convert to Christianity. Frankish lords were particularly reluctant, because conversion would have ended the Muslim peasants' servile status. The Muslims could pray in public and their pilgrimages to Mecca continued.[171] The Samaritans' annual Passover festival attracted visitors from beyond the kingdom's borders.[172]

Both Christian and Muslim pilgrims visited the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron. The Saint John Hospital received patients of any faith in Jerusalem. The Templars allowed their Muslim visitors to pray in their headquarters.[173]


Photograph of three crusader coins from the British Museum. Left: A Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre (1162–75). Centre: a Kufic gold bezant (1140–80). Right: gold bezant with Christian symbol (1250s). Gold coins were first copied dinars and bore Kufic script, but after 1250 Christian symbols were added following papal complaints
Crusader coins of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Left: Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre (1162–75). Centre: Kufic gold bezant (1140–80). Right: gold bezant with Christian symbol (1250s). Gold coins were first copied dinars and bore Kufic script, but after 1250 Christian symbols were added following papal complaints (British Museum)

Largely based in the ports of Acre, Tyre, Tripoli and Sidon, Italian, Provençal and Catalan communes had distinct cultural characteristics and exerted significant political power. Separate from the Frankish nobles or burgesses, the communes were autonomous political entities closely linked to their towns of origin. This gave the inhabitants the ability to monopolise foreign trade and almost all banking and shipping in the Outremer. Their parent cities' naval support was essential for the Crusader states and they took every opportunity to extend trade privileges. One example saw the Venetians first receiving a single street in Acre for their participation in the 1110 siege of Sidon, then acquiring one-third of Tyre and the right to self-government for their naval support during the 1124 siege of the town. The communards lived in small houses, but most commune owned a shopping center and a two- or three-storey palace with logdgings and shops to be rented out. Despite all efforts, the Syrian and Palestinian ports were unable to replace Alexandria and Constantinople as the primary centres of commerce in the region. Instead, the communes competed with the monarchs and each other to maintain economic advantage. Power derived from the support of the communards' native cities rather than their number, which never reached more than hundreds. Thus, by the middle of the 13th century, the rulers of the communes were barely required to recognise the authority of the Crusaders and divided Acre into several fortified miniature republics.[174][175]


Records preserved by John of Ibelin indicate that the military force of the kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 knights in 1170. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. This force would be augmented by mercenary serjants and John records 5,025 of these. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the population. Historian Joshua Prawer estimates that the military orders could match the fighting strength of the king's army. This means the total military strength of the kingdom can be estimated at 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. This indicates further territorial gains were possible, but these were likely to be nothing more than ephemeral because of a lack of the required numbers to maintain military domination. This demographic lack of numbers was also a problem defensively. Putting an army into the field required draining every crusader castle and city of all able-bodied fighting men. In the case of a defeat such as the battle of Hattin, there remained no one to resist the invaders. Muslim armies were incohesive and seldom campaigned beyond a period between sowing and harvest. As a result, the crusaders adopted delaying tactics when faced with a superior invading Muslim force. They would avoid direct confrontation, instead retreating to strongholds and waiting for the Muslim army to disperse. It took generations before the Muslims recognised that the destruction of the walled cities and castles would end crusader rule. This strategic change forced the crusaders away from the tactic of gaining and holding territory, including Jerusalem. Instead the aim was to attack and destroy Egypt. By removing this constant regional challenge, the Crusaders hoped to gain the necessary time to improve the kingdom's demographic weakness.[176]


In 1191 the English king, Richard I, conquered Cyprus while journeying by sea to the Third Crusade. This was in response of the capture of his sister and his fiancée by the Cypriot ruler, Isaac Komnenos.[177] A year later Richard facilitaed the sale of the island to Guy of Lusignan for 40,000 bezants as part of the settlement intended to end his rule in Jerusalem and make Conrad of Montferrat king.[178] After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Templars and the Hospitallers relocated to Cyprus where they became deeply involved in local politics.[179]

Frankish Greece

Multi-coloured map of Latin and Byzantine Empires
Map of the Latin and Byzantine Empires in 1205. Green marks the dated acquisitions of Venice, Pink the Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire while shades of Purple indicate the Latin Empire and its vassal states.

The Latin states established on the ruins of the Byzantine Empire were no more than new elements of the regional patchwork of petty realms. The Achaean princely court at Mistra was famed as a centre of chivalry in the middle of the 13th century, but Latin rule in Greece was fragile. Greece did not attract colonists from Europe and the "erroneous" Catholic religious practices outraged the local Orthodox population. Epirote troops ousted the Latins from Thessaloniki in 1224, and Byzantine rule was restored in Constantinople from Nicaea in 1261. Achaea and Athens endured, but only under the suzerainty of the Angevin rulers of Naples. The Catalan Company, a group of freelance mercenaries, destroyed the cavalry of Frankish Greece and seized Athens in 1311. Always in need of funds, the Angevins ceded large parcels of their Morean principality to the Acciaioli, a family of Florentine bankers. Athens fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1456.[180][181]

The Venetians endured a long-standing conflict with the Ottoman Empire until the final possessions were lost in the Seventh Ottoman–Venetian War in the 18th century. This period of Greek history is known as the Frankokratia or Latinokratia ("Frankish or Latin rule") and designates a period when Catholic western European nobles, primarily from France and Italy, ruled over the Orthodox Byzantine Greeks on former Byzantine territory.[182]

Military orders

13th-century miniature of King Baldwin II granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payens
13th-century miniature of Baldwin II of Jerusalem granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payens

The crusaders' propensity to follow the customs of their Western European homelands meant that there were very few innovations developed from the culture in the crusader states. Three notable exceptions to this are the military orders, warfare and fortifications.[183] The Knights Hospitaller, formally the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, were founded in Jerusalem before the First Crusade but added a martial element to their ongoing medical functions to become a much larger military order.[184] In this way the knighthood entered the previously monastic and ecclesiastical sphere.[185]

Military orders like the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar provided Latin Christendom's first professional armies. The Templars, formally the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, and their Temple of Solomon were founded around 1119 by a small band of knights who dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.[186] The Hospitallers and the Templars became supranational organisations as papal support led to rich donations of land and revenue across Europe. This, in turn, led to a steady flow of new recruits and the wealth to maintain multiple fortifications in the crusader states. In time, they developed into autonomous powers in the region.[187]

The Knights Templar played a pivotal role in the administration of French royal revenues. King Philip IV of France accused them of homosexual activities, idolatry and sacrilege and ordered their arrest. His officials obtained forced confessions and he exerted pressure on Pope Clement V to dissolve the order. The Pope could not resist for long, and the Council of Vienne suppressed the Knights Templar without condemning them in 1312. The arrest of the Knights Templars alarmed the other military orders. The Teutonic Knights relocated their headquarters from Venice to Prussia, the Knights Hospitaller to Rhodes. Rhodes fell to the Ottomans in 1522, but the Hospitallers seized Malta and ruled it until Napoleon captured the island in 1798. They continue in existence to the present-day, although they had abandoned their military mission in 1834.[188]

Art and architecture

photograph of 12th-century Hospitaller castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria showing concentric rings of defence, curtain walls and location sitting on a promontory.
12th-century Knights Hospitaller castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, one of the first castles to use concentric fortification, i.e. concentric rings of defence that could all operate at the same time. It has two curtain walls and sits on a promontory.

According to Joshua Prawer no major European poet, theologian, scholar or historian settled in the crusader states. Some went on pilgrimage, and this is reflected in new imagery and ideas in the important area of western poetry. Although they did not migrate East themselves, their output often encouraged others to journey on pilgrimage to the east.[189]

Historians consider military architecture—demonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditions—the most original and impressive artistic achievement of the crusades. Castles were a tangible symbol of the dominance of a Latin Christian minority over a largely hostile majority population. They also acted as centres of administration.[190] Modern historiography rejects the 19th-century consensus that Westerners learnt the basis of military architecture from the Near East, as Europe had already experienced rapid growth in defensive technology before the First Crusade. Direct contact with Arab fortifications originally constructed by the Byzantines did influence developments in the east. But the lack of documentary evidence means that it remains difficult to differentiate between the importance of this design culture and the constraints of situation, which led to the inclusion of oriental design features such as large water reservoirs and the exclusion of occidental features like moats.[191]

Typically, early church design was in the French Romanesque style. This can be seen in the 12th-century rebuilding of the Holy Sepulchre. It retained some of the Byzantine details, but new arches and chapels were built to northern French, Aquitanian and Provençal patterns. There is little trace of any surviving indigenous influence in sculpture, although in the Holy Sepulchre the column capitals of the south facade follow classical Syrian patterns.[192]

In contrast to architecture and sculpture, it is in the area of visual culture that the assimilated nature of the society was demonstrated. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries the influence of indigenous artists was demonstrated in the decoration of shrines, painting and the production of manuscripts. In addition, Frankish practitioners borrowed methods from the Byzantines and indigenous artists and iconographical practice. Monumental and panel painting, mosaics and illuminations in manuscripts adopted an indigenous style leading to a cultural synthesis illustrated by the Church of the Nativity. Wall mosaics were unknown in the west but in widespread use in the crusader states. Whether this was by indigenous craftsmen or learnt by Frankish ones is unknown, but a distinctive original artistic style evolved.[193]

Manuscripts were produced and illustrated in workshops housing Italian, French, English and local craftsmen leading to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques. An example of this is the Melisende Psalter, created by several hands in a workshop attached to the Holy Sepulchre. This style could have either reflected or influenced the taste of patrons of the arts. But what is seen is an increase in stylised Byzantine-influenced content. This even extended to the production of icons, unknown at the time to the Franks, sometimes in a Frankish style and even of western saints. This is seen as the origin of Italian panel painting.[194] While it is difficult to track illumination of manuscripts and castle design back to their sources textual sources are simpler. The translations made in Antioch are notable, but they are considered of secondary importance to the works emanating from Muslim Spain and from the hybrid culture of Sicily.[195]

Female involvement

Until abolished by Innocent III, married men required their wives consent before taking the cross and the husbands' prolonged absences caused objections. Muslim and Byzantine observers were viewed with disdain the many women who willingly joined the armed pilgrimages and female fighters. Western chroniclers indicated female crusaders were wives, merchants, servants and sex workers. Attempts were made to control the womens behaviour in ordinances of 1147 and 1190. Aristocratic women had a significant impact: Ida of Formbach-Ratelnberg led her own force in 1101; Eleanor of Aquitaine conducted her own political strategy; and Margaret of Provence negotiated her husband Louis IX's ransom with an opposing women—the Egyotian sultana Shajar al-Durr. Misogyny meant that there was male disapproval; chroniclers tell of immorality and Jerome of Prague blamed the failure of the Second Crusade on the presence of women. Even though they assisted crusade promotion preachers would typecast them as obstructing recruitment, despite the donations, legacies and vow redemptions. Reward did come in the sharing of crusaders plenary indulgences.[196]


Historical parallelism and the tradition of drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages have become keystones of political Islam encouraging ideas of a modern jihad and long struggle while secular Arab nationalism highlights the role of western imperialism.[197] Muslim thinkers, politicians and historians have drawn parallels between the crusades and modern political developments such as the mandates given for the governance of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel by the United Nations.[198] Right-wing circles in the Western world have drawn opposing parallels, considering Christianity to be under an Islamic religious and demographic threat that is analogous to the situation at the time of the crusades. Crusader symbols and anti-Islamic rhetoric are presented as an appropriate response, even if only for propaganda purposes. These symbols and rhetoric are used to provide a religious justification and inspiration for a struggle against a religious enemy.[199]



Illustration of the Council of Clermont
Illustration of the Council of Clermont, Jean Colombe, Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, c. 1475

Originally, medieval understanding of the crusades was narrowly focussed on a limited set of interrelated texts, most notably Gesta Francorum which possibly dates from as early as 1099. This created a papalist, northern French and Benedictine template for later works. These all demonstrated a degree of martial advocacy that attributed both success and failure to God's will.[200] This clerical view was soon challenged by vernacular adventure stories based on the work of Albert of Aachen. William of Tyre expanded on Albert's writing in his Historia. Completed by 1200, William's work describes the warrior state the Outremer had become through the tensions between the providential and secular.[201] Medieval crusade historiography remained more interested in presenting moralistic lessons than information, extolling the crusades as a moral exemplar and a cultural norm.[202]


Attitudes toward the crusades during the Reformation were shaped by the radical fragmentation of religious orthodoxy, the perceived threat of the Ottomans and the French Wars of Religion. Protestant martyrist John Foxe in his History of the Turks (1566) blamed the sins of the Roman church for the failure of the crusades. He also condemned the use of crusades against those he considered had maintained the faith, such as the Albigensians and Waldensians. Lutheran scholar Matthew Dresser (1536–1607) extended this view. The crusaders were lauded for their faith but Urban II's motivation was seen as part of his conflict with German Emperor Henry IV. On this view, the crusade was flawed, and the idea of restoring the physical Holy Places was "detestable superstition".[203] French Catholic lawyer Étienne Pasquier (1529–1615) was one of the first to number the crusades; he suggested there were six. His work highlighted the failures of the crusades and the damage that religious conflict had inflicted on France and the church. It lists victims of papal aggression, sale of indulgences, church abuses, corruption, and conflicts at home.[204]


Age of Enlightenment philosopher historians such as David Hume, Voltaire and Edward Gibbon used crusading as a conceptual tool to critique religion, civilisation and cultural mores. For them the positives effects of crusading, such as the increasing liberty that municipalities were able to purchase from feudal lords, were only by-products. This view was then criticised in the 19th century by crusade enthusiasts as being unnecessarily hostile to, and ignorant of, the crusades.[205] Alternatively, Claude Fleury and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz proposed that the crusades were one stage in the improvement of European Civilisation; that paradigm was further developed by Rationalists.[206]

In France the idea that the crusades were an important part of national history and identity continued to evolve. In academic circles the phrase “Holy War” was the main descriptor, but the more neutral terms kreuzzug from German and the French croisade became established. The word "crusade" entered the English language in the 18th century as a hybrid from Spanish, French and Latin.[207] Gibbon followed Thomas Fuller in dismissing the concept that the crusades were a legitimate defence as they were disproportionate to the threat presented. Palestine was an objective, not because of reason but because of fanaticism and superstition.[208]

William Robertson expanded on Fleury in a new, empirical, objective approach placing crusading in a narrative of progress towards modernity. The cultural consequences of growth in trade, the rise of the Italian cities and progress are elaborated in his work. In this he influenced his student Walter Scott.[209] Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the 19th century novels of Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud.

Contemporary historiography

In an influential article published in 2001 Giles Constable defined four categories of contemporary crusade study. Traditionalists such as Hans Eberhard Mayer were concerned with where the crusades were aimed and restricted themselves to those crusades aiming to recover Jerusalem. Pluralists such as Jonathan Riley-Smith concentrated on how the crusades were organised and included all campaigns with vows and privileges, not only in the Holy Land. Popularists including Paul Alphandery and Etienne Delaruelle focussed on those that were characterised by popular groundswells of religious fervour including the First, Children's and Shepherds' Crusades. The fourth, widest and final category, Generalists, such as Ernst-Dieter Hehl regard crusades as Latin holy wars.[210]

Some historians, such as Thomas F. Madden, argue that modern tensions are the result of a constructed view of the crusades created by colonial powers in the 19th century and transmitted into Arab nationalism. For him the crusades are a medieval phenomenon in which the crusaders were engaged in a defensive war war on behalf of their co-religionists.[211]

Muslim historiography

The Muslim world exhibited little interest in European culture until the 16th century and in the crusades until the middle of the 19th century. In the late 19th century, Arabic-speaking Syrian Christians began translating French histories into Arabic, leading to the replacement of the term "wars of the Ifranj" – Franks – with al-hurub al Salabiyya – wars of the Cross. Namık Kemal published the first modern Saladin biography in 1872. The Jerusalem visit in 1898 of Kaiser Wilhelm prompted further interest, with Sayyid Ali al-Hariri producing the first Arabic history of the crusades.[197]

See also


  1. ^ Tyerman explains that "holy war" was the primary academic term from the early 16th century, until the German term Kreuzzug (war of the cross) and the French croisade became established. Regarding English usage, he writes: "Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) includes four variants: crusade, crusado, croisade and croisado (the word used by Francis Bacon). 'Crusade', perhaps first coined in 1706, certainly in vogue by 1753, when it was used in the English translation of Voltaire's essay (published as History of the Crusades; the following year as part of The General History and State of Europe), was popularised through its use by Hume (1761) and Gibbon."[6]


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Further reading